PMG Certifies Dual Denomination 'Discovery Note' from Venezuela's Distrito Federal

Posted on 9/3/2021

The 1864 banknote survived tumultuous times in South American history.

Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®) has certified a previously unknown Venezuelan banknote that was printed during the inaugural year of the United States of Venezuela.

The dual denomination 8 Reales = 1 Peso note was issued in 1864 and bears the name of the “Distrito Federal,” or Federal District, which was one of 21 regions established across Venezuela following that nation’s bloody and costly Federal War. The signature of Antonio Bello, included in the note’s printing, was one factor that assisted in PMG’s authentication and grading process. Historical documents show that Bello, who had been a Venezuelan general during the Federal War, served as the governor of Venezuela’s Federal District in 1864.

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The 1864 note dates from a period of significant civil unrest in the history of Venezuela, which gained its independence from Spain in 1811. A monopoly of power held by conservatives in the national government during the 1850s led to the Federal War, also known as the Great War, in which liberals, also known as Federalists, sought to obtain greater autonomy for the Venezuelan provinces. The war was fought between 1859 and 1863 and eventually was won by the Federalists, but not before claiming more than 100,000 lives and resulting in the country accruing significant foreign debt.

The new government took the name United States of Venezuela and designated 20 “states” — regions formerly known as “provinces” — and one federal district located within the state of Caracas. The federal district, which was responsible for issuing the 1864 note, served a role similar to that of Washington D.C. in the United States of America.

In addition to its denomination, the 1864 note’s design incorporates language guaranteeing its payment by “la Comisión del Empréstito,” or Loan Commission, and the signatures of three of the commission’s members. Other elements included on the note were not incorporated in printing but added by hand. They include the note’s serial number, the series in which it was issued, and its issue date, which in the case of this note was November 15.

The 1864 note was issued during the presidency of Juan Falcón, a Federalist general who proved to be an incapable national leader. As a result of Falcón’s failures, regional strongmen, known as caudillos, rose to power until Antonio Guzmán Blanco took control of the government and established himself as a dictator in 1870.

Now graded PMG 20 Very Fine, the 1864 note is considered a “discovery note” because it was not previously known to specialists. The note also is not listed in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, more commonly known as the Pick book after its original author Albert Pick.

Research done by PMG’s Central and South American banknote experts found reports in newspapers dating from 1864 that celebrated the issuing of one peso banknotes by “the General Governor of the Federal District.” An article from the newspaper Interior dated May 17, 1864, hails the “Caracas banknotes” as “omens of good fortune” for a nation that had endured tumultuous times. The article says a total of 27,500 one peso notes would be issued, but specifies that they would be issued as needed, rather than all at once.

When one considers that all of the notes may not have been issued and that more than 150 years have passed since their printing, it seems possible that the note graded by PMG might be the only one of its kind to survive.

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